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I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys
Young adult

I Must Betray You

by Ruta Sepetys

Quick take

Under the harsh rule of a dictator, a young man must choose between betraying his loved ones or risking his own life.

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    Social issues

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    Famous author

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Romania, 1989. Communist regimes are crumbling across Europe. Seventeen-year-old Cristian Florescu dreams of becoming a writer, but Romanians aren’t free to dream; they are bound by rules and force.

Amidst the tyrannical dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu in a country governed by isolation and fear, Cristian is blackmailed by the secret police to become an informer. He’s left with only two choices: betray everyone and everything he loves—or use his position to creatively undermine the most notoriously evil dictator in Eastern Europe.

Cristian risks everything to unmask the truth behind the regime, give voice to fellow Romanians, and expose to the world what is happening in his country. He eagerly joins the revolution to fight for change when the time arrives. But what is the cost of freedom?

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Why I love it

Ruta Sepetys’s new historical thriller I Must Betray You is an atmospheric, beautifully written story set as the 1989 Romanian Revolution fast approaches. The novel is filled with unforgettable characters who convey varying aspects of the suffering and abuse of civil liberties by the communist government led by Nicolae Ceausescu. But no character is as thoroughly engrossing as Cristian Florescu. The high school student is an adventuresome young man who dabbles in such illegal activities as watching smuggled American movies, writing in his journals, hoarding Kent cigarettes, and sharing a can of Coca-Cola. But when he gets recruited to spy on a U.S. diplomat’s son—his mother cleans the apartments of two U.S. diplomats—he is also given a chance to prove himself resourceful, flawed, and heroic.

Sepetys’s novel is historical fiction at its best. Meticulously researched, it is also wonderfully paced storytelling. The author weaves history into an emotional tale that merges genres, from coming-of-age to thriller and action-adventure seamlessly led by Cristian. His observations, intellect, and disarming humor, as well as his heartwarming affection for his family, friends, and partners, make his difficult choice at the center of the story even more gut-wrenching.

I Must Betray You will leave you breathless until the very last sentence.

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Member ratings (3,154)

  • Amanda B.

    Hollywood, MD

    Hands down one of the best books I’ve ever read! I couldn’t put it down. It’s made me thirsty for more history on Eastern Europe and communism. I love fiction books that actually teach you something.

  • Zach D.

    Lubbock, TX

    Read this book in TWO DAYS. I’m a very busy person, but I couldn’t put it down. I was familiar with the Romanian Revolution, and now I know even more. This should be required reading for young folx.

  • Abby M.

    Fargo, ND

    Another brilliant novel from Sepetys! I had no prior knowledge of the atrocities committed in Romania & have since taken a serious interest in their recent history. I can’t recommend her books enough!

  • Audra H.

    Logan, UT

    This book is amazing! I couldn’t put it down! Extremely informative about a time in history that I wasn’t familiar with. It was emotional and fast paced with great developed characters. Great read!

  • Amanda R.

    Westland, MI

    I love the way Ruta Sepety’s tells stories. I learn so much about historical events that I didn’t know much about prior. The characters were endearing and I was horrified by how they were treated.